The big day
It’s January 17th and Amsterdam is covered in snow. I am looking out a hospital room window at the snowy scenery. After waiting peacefully for a couple of hours a nurse enters and tells me with a soft smile that it’s time. I’m reflecting to my situation and my own calmness amazes me for a brief moment. I never thought someone could be heading to surgery – to have his leg cut off, without experiencing severe anxiety, especially when this person was me. I had been extremely calm these past few months, mainly thanks to my new daily habit of meditation. However, a part of me was wondering if I would freak out the day of the big operation. My heart beat raised and my hands felt unsteady a few times. However, a couple of seconds focusing on my meditational techniques were enough to remove the tension. I simply reminded myself that this all was for the best and observed my physiology’s response to my emotions until they melted away.
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As I lay on the surgical table I say to myself – this is it. My palms feel shaky again as I realize that a part of my body which I have been carrying around all my life will disappear. But, my mind is at peace. I accept that this is a huge turning point in my life and that it’s only going to be uphill from now on. The anesthetic slowly starts to kick in and my vision becomes blurry. I can only see the gloomy white lights on the ceiling. Once again I enjoy the feeling of weightlessness and I let myself fall asleep.
A couple of hours later I wake up and a nurse tells me the surgery went well. I am freezing cold which is a typical post surgery reaction. The nurse brings me a heated blanket. Suddenly I realize I still feel my leg. Did they do the amputation? I ask. The nurse tells me yes. What’s weird is that I still feel my leg, and even though I was prepared for this, the sensation was remarkably realistic… it’s called phantom limb, and if you’ve never heard about it before, it’s the sensation an amputee experiences when the amputated limb still feels attached to his body. Approximately 75% of amputees experience phantom sensations in their amputated limbs. Some of the typical sensations are pain, warmth, cold, itching, tightness, and tingling.
Luckily, I didn’t experience that much pain, not even in the beginning. My main feelings where pressure and an extremely annoying itch which kept me sleepless for the first three weeks. Thankfully that also subsided. A week after, I was discharged from the hospital and had to rest at home for three weeks before any kind of rehabilitation could begin. However I didn’t want to get completely out of shape and, being the stubborn person that I am, I started doing some pull ups after day 4 at home. I was also extremely eager to begin walking on my prosthesis. Rehab took 5 months and I was finally able to walk without crutches again. Once I started to walk, I woke up every day early in the morning and went for a stroll to practice my gait. I loved those mornings – the feeling of freedom was incredible. Walking with my chin up, no crutches, no canes and without the hunched-up depressed posture I had all those years was something that felt extremely empowering. It still does, maybe not as much as those days but whenever I need to uplift myself, going for a prideful walk always refuels my self-confidence.
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